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SALT LAKE CITY -- If two Utah favorite sons ran for president in 2012, which one would draw more support in the Beehive State? A new Dan Jones poll for KSL-TV and the Deseret News finds Mitt Romney outpacing Gov. Jon Huntsman.
Neither man has said they intend to run, but both Romney and Huntsman are considered possible presidential candidates for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.
In our statewide poll this week of 254 Utahns, we asked: "Which of the two do you prefer?" 55 percent say Romney; 32 percent say Huntsman.
"Well, I think Romney has run a national campaign, so people are more comfortable seeing him as a Republican presidential candidate," said Tod Weiler, vice chair of the Utah Republican Party.
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Holland said, "Romney is just coming off a presidential run. He still has a lot of the base of the party in Utah on the bandwagon, hoping for 2012."
Against President Obama, 67 percent of Utahns would pick Romney to Obama's 27 percent.
Huntsman also outpaces Obama, with 58 percent of Utahns saying they would vote for him compared to 25 percent for Obama.
Meanwhile, Republicans seem to be having an identity crisis. Gov. Huntsman, for example, was disinvited from a Republican Party fundraising event in Michigan, apparently because of his support for civil unions.
On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter jumped ship and became a Democrat, suggesting the GOP was veering too far to the right.
Some political observers say the Specter defection should serve as a wakeup call to a party in danger of becoming a mostly regional party, in part because of a narrow focus on social issues, the so-called 3Gs: God, gays and guns.
"The more Republicans stay on some of these social issues, the so-called 3Gs issues, the more you are going to have probably a shrinking party, which is going to have a difficult time ever gaining a majority again," said Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.
Between the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, the country trended Democratic, as did most of Specter's home state. Still, GOP gains were concentrated in a few states: Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma and parts of Texas, Kentucky and West Virginia.
Both Romney and Huntsman could be key players in charting the future direction for the party.